Electronic Entertainment Expo, also known as E3, is one of the biggest tech conventions of the year. It brings together all the giants and the smaller fish of the video games industry as they reveal what they have in store for the future.
This year was the 25th anniversary of the convention and for a show going on for so long, the buzz and excitement around it every single year is still magical. Nothing beats the anticipation before every year’s E3 as the video game silly season kicks off and we get bombarded with new reveals and news.
Year in and Year out, we see massive gaming companies trying to one up each other in terms of scale and the things they have to offer. This obviously, in result, also turns E3 into an extremely competitive environment and a matter of life and death for these companies.
The influence that E3 has on the audience cannot be ignored at all. Back in 2013, when Microsoft revealed the Xbox One, the tech giant had one of the worst E3 press conferences in its history and it showed. People rejected the philosophy that Microsoft had taken for its next generation. This caused massive decline in Microsoft’s console sales and made the Xbox One pretty much a ‘flop’ at launch.
On the other side of the wall, Sony had done everything right after its relatively complicated previous generation and managed to wipe the floor with Microsoft. This elevated the PlayStation 4 into being one of the best-selling gaming consoles of all time. All of this eventually made Microsoft change its top level management by bringing in Phil Spencer as it tried to control the damage that had been done (which it eventually did manage to do later on).
Every year, E3 is attended by hundreds of thousands of people in Los Angeles. The crowds have been going up exponentially over the past few years and the whole convention is now super jam packed every year.
However, if you thought that number was big, you’d be surprised to hear that E3 coverage and press conferences are watched online by hundreds of millions of people online. This trend has also been going up over the years as more people resort to YouTube and other forms of streaming.
E3 was not always this consumer oriented show with future game reveals. It actually started off as a show geared towards investors and shareholders. The companies would still reveal their future plans but there was a lot of technical stuff and graphs involved.
As years went by, E3 slowly caught attention of the average consumer and slowly morphed into what it is today. Right now, it is the biggest gaming convention of the year. Most companies like to reveal their biggest titles and hardware at E3. While many would argue that the cost of setting up a showcase at E3 is getting too high, the payoff is worth it as well. We’ve seen many games from smaller indie developers do really well just because of the exposure they got from being showcased at E3. Over the past couple of years, however, we are starting to see a shift in the tide that has led us to ask the question, “Is E3 dying?”
Is E3 Actually Dying?
A lot of people have been saying this, especially after this year’s E3. The press conferences and briefings were rather lacklustre apart from a few and we did not even have some of the big names in the industry like Sony at the show. Moreover, even some of the companies that usually had massive showcases before like EA resorted to a smaller show this year. Most of the stuff we saw at this year’s E3 had already been announced and there were only a few exciting new announcements. So, was this year just an anomaly or is E3 actually dying?
Why Did Sony Skip E3?
One of the most shocking things to have happened at E3 this year was the absence of Sony from the show floor. Sony is the industry leader right now in terms of gaming and has the best-selling console of this generation. Last year, the company had a massive showcase event where it showed off its future game of the year contenders and most hyped games like The Last of Us 2 and Ghost of Tsushima. However, many had been touting E3 2019 to be the year for next generation consoles and nothing gets bigger than that. Microsoft had been building up to this E3 for years so it was pretty weird when Sony announced that it was not going to be at E3 this year. However, after looking at most of the press conferences at E3 this year, I kind of get why Sony chose to abstain.
You see, whenever we are on the brink of a new generation, game developers stop developing current gen games. This is done because as soon as the new hardware drops, the older one becomes obsolete so there is no point of developing new stuff for sales that are not going to be sustained. There is also a ton of uncertainty surrounding the next generation hardware.
Most developers probably got the dev kits just recently a few months ago and it can take years for them to develop games for that hardware. This is why the amount of games, especially exclusives, coming out during this period of transition is extremely low.
EA probably downsized its E3 showcase for this exact reason as well. It only had a few games to show off with no new announcements.
Most of the games currently in development at Sony’s studios are probably being made for the PS5. The few games that were close to the end of their development cycles were already revealed last year. So, Sony just had nothing to show at this year’s E3 which is why it chose to not be at the show. The company had already revealed its future plans for the PS5 in a blog post as well. The next generation consoles are still not ready to be shown. This was strengthened by the fact that Microsoft did eventually end up revealing the same details for the next Xbox at E3 that Sony had already done previously. However, we would most certainly see Sony at next year’s E3 in some capacity as it is the ‘big one’ with the console reveals.
Streaming Might Be The Catalyst For The Death of E3
Another reason for E3 not being as important anymore is the fact that most of the audience watches it from the comfort of its homes now. So, in terms of cost effectiveness, many companies do not see a reason to spend millions on a massive show floor and press briefing when they could just livestream a much smaller event to pretty much the same audience. The only two things keeping E3 intact is the buzz and hype that it generates and the experience it offers for people to actually play the upcoming games on the show floor.
However, I’m not sure if these two things are going to last very long. Demos for upcoming games could be streamed in the future thanks to game streaming services like Google Stadia and Project xCloud.
However, even after all of this, one thing cannot be denied. E3, every single year, manages to create some of the most memorable moments in gaming history. From Miyamoto wielding the Master Sword to Keanu Reeves walking out on stage to reveal the Cyberpunk 2077 release date, no amount of live-streaming can beat the spectacle of E3. The tradition of E3 has been going on for a very long time and I hope it continues to do so. Next year is probably going to be the biggest year for E3 for almost a decade. Let’s hope it delivers.